"the apologetic English bourgeois professor"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sat Nov 11 07:49:03 MST 2000

[In volume 21 of the Collected Marx and Engels, you get the brunt of Marx
and Engels' writings on Ireland, including articles by Jenny Marx on the
Irish Question. Included is a plan for a History of Ireland by Engels, with
fragments of chapters. You also get his notes on Goldwin Smith's "Irish
History and Irish Character" which are a real eye-opener. His loathing for
British imperial historiography practically leaps off the page. Beneath is
the opening paragraphs of his notes. I have set off Smith's text with a
">", just as you would see in a reply to an email. Can you imagine Engels
on the Internet? I bet he would have loved this medium.]


Behind the cloak of objectivity, the apologetic English bourgeois
professor. Even from a geographical point of view, Ireland, he says, was
destined to be subjugated by England, and he attributes the slow and
incomplete conquest to the width of the Channel and to the position of
Wales between England and Ireland. Ireland is said to be a GRAZING COUNTRY
by nature, see Léonce de Lavergne. Smith thinks that

>"it is difficult, over a great part of the island, to get in a wheat
harvest ... its natural way to commercial prosperity seems to be to supply
with the produce of its grazing and dairy farms the population of England"
(p. 3)

There ARE coalfields in Ireland (p. 4).

>The climate is supposed to have debilitated the Irish and retarded their
development, in comparison with such braced people as the Scandinavians

(and Laplanders?). On the other hand, the prospect is held out to the Irish

>of the villas of nobles and merchant princes, such as can now be found in
Scotland (p. 5)


Greatly deplores the lack of moderation in Irish eloquence. Nevertheless
the Irishman complements the Englishman, and it would be unfortunate if as
a result of emigration the Celtic element were DRAINED OFF.

>Originally the clan or tribe (was] the social form common to all Celts

(and to other nations)

>in Wales as well. Soon more intermingling of the different clans in the
Irish plain and loosening of ties within the clans; on the other hand
[there existed] the rule of  the more powerful over those who were weaker,
the beginnings of monarchy. The main prerogative of the king seems to have
been the exaction of tribute, rather than regular jurisdiction. The faction
fights of the Irish are vestiges of the old clanships, as are also the
county jealousies and county fights. (cf. the fight between Cork and
Tipperary on the emigrant ship).


>The old loyalty to the clan chief and submission to his will explain much
in the Irish character.

The land of the clan was COMMUNAL PROPERTY. In this context Smith realises
that in Ireland it was never the Irishman, but only the Englishman who held
land as PRIVATE PROPERTY, although he merely says that private property
confronted the Irishman only in the "form of insecurity, degradation, and
despair" (p. 21).

Louis Proyect
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